After dropping the opener of the Palomino League Super Regional playoffs, the Peninsula White Sox needed a clutch performance to turn around their postseason fortunes.
With the Sox facing a win-or-go-home scenario, right-hander Michael Benz stepped up with that clutch performance Friday, firing a complete-game six-hitter in a grueling 2-1 win over the Nor Cal Mavericks-Stockton at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz.
Playing through the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament, the White Sox must now win two games Saturday to continue their season, starting with an 11 a.m. first pitch against the PAL Giants-San Jose.
“We have our starters ready to go, guys ready to close,” White Sox manager Lenny Souza said. “If we get the bats going we’ll be around at the end.”
Two wins Saturday would guarantee the White Sox at least a third-place finish in the tourney, with the top three teams advancing in the Palomino postseason; the winner of the Super Regional receives a bye into the Palomino League World Series, with the second- and third-place teams advancing to the West Zone Regional beginning Thursday, June 27 at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
The White Sox advanced to the West Zone Regional last year for the fourth time in team history.
With the bats slumbering through the first five innings Friday, it took a splendid effort by Benz to keep the White Sox alive. The right-hander out of Redwood High School-Larkspur has been a mainstay of Souza’s starting rotation this season. And fronting a scoreless tie into the sixth against the Mavericks, Benz did not disappoint in the playoff spotlight.
“The only time they really got things going is when he left [the curveball] up or he bounced it,” Souza said.
Benz allowed one unearned run on six hits while striking out six. And with the game on the line in the seventh, he muscled through a two-out infield error to allow the Mavericks’ lone run of the evening to score. But, with runners at first and third and two outs, Souza opted to stick ride Benz the rest of the way.
“His pitch count was low,” Souza said. “We were going to win or lose with [Benz] pitching at that point.”
Benz finished out the CG with a fly-out to left fielder Alex Athanacio, a fitting target for the game’s final out as Athanacio also paced the White Sox at the plate.
Added to the White Sox’s roster Wednesday to replace an injured player, Athanacio assumed the leadoff spot Friday to go 2 for 4 while scoring both his team’s runs.
In the top of the sixth, he sparked a rally with a leadoff single, and later scored oin an RBI single by Willie Reader. Then in the seventh, Athanacio produced a two-out double and scored on an RBI single from Zach Avila.
Athanacio played for Souza for four years at Aragon, then played at Cañada College in 2017.
Peninsula Blues eliminated from Palomino tourney
The Peninsula Blues went two-and-out in the Palomino League Super Regional playoffs, getting eliminated Thursday with an 11-4 loss to Dub Dynasty-Morgan Hill.
Blues right-hander Evan McDonough soldiered through five innings, but the recent graduate of Woodside High School didn’t see a lot of support, according to Blues manager Tim Goode.
“Evan McDonough pitched great,” Goode said. “We just didn’t hit to back him up and didn’t play defense to back him up.”
Joe DiMaggio tourney delayed
Initially slated to start Thursday, July 20, the Joe DiMaggio League State Tournament was pushed back to start Saturday, July 22 do to a streamlined format.
Initially scheduled as an eight-game tourney, the Joe D State Tournament was shortened to six teams due to the Tri-County Gamblers dropping out of the league late in the season.
“They were considering taking another SF team, but then it would be too many teams from our side of town,” Pacifica Gamecocks manager Bryan Powers said. “So they decided to do a six-team tournament.”
Traditionally played in Napa or Yountville, the Joe D State Tournament will be moving to Sacramento this year at Cosumnes River College. San Bruno and SF Trinity are set to open the tourney Saturday, with the SF Seeds and South San Francisco playing the Saturday nightcap. Peninsula League champion Pacifica and North Bay League champion River City both receive opening-round byes.
The championship game of the double-elimination tourney is still slated for Tuesday, July 25, at 10 a.m., with a second game, if necessary, tabbed for Tuesday at 1 p.m.